Glenmorangie is one of the biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky brands in the world and was founded in 1843 by William Matheson. It is located in the north Highland town of Tain. The distillery was originally named Morangie. It became Glenmorangie in 1887. It has an annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills are the tallest in Scotland standing at over five metres (16.5 feet). It also uses the hardest water of any Scotch whisky distillery in production, which comes from the nearby Tarlogie Springs. The distillery and brand are currently owned by Moet Hennessey.
This new whisky is the third release in the north Highland distillery of Glenmorangie's annual Tales series. A Tale of the Forest follows A Tale of Cake from 2020 and A Tale of Winter from 2021. This year's edition takes inspiration from Dr. Bill Lumden's walks through the woodland close to his home. Glenmorangie's Director of Whisky Creation has evoke the sights, sounds and smell of the forest by using a small batch of barley kilned with woodland botanicals. This traditional practice from yesteryear sees barley dried with small quantities of peat, juniper, pine, heather, rowan berries and birch bark. The whisky has been matured in a combination of first-fill and re-fill ex-bourbon casks. The packaging has been designed by illustrator Pomme Chan.
"About 15 years ago I began experimenting with elements of primary spirit production. This included kilning and the study of historically how barley used to be dried. Other combustables, not just peat, were often used. Then around 12 years ago we produced one weeks worth of spirit in this style - that is now A Tale of the Forest."Dr. Bill Lumsden speaking at the launch event in London / October 12, 2022.
A Tale of the Forest is bottled at 46% ABV and is initially available for an exclusive period from London department store Selfridge's. Wider distribution throughout the UK, Europe and world markets will then follow. A bottle will cost £89. The launch is supported by A Tale of the Forest takeover of The Green Bar in London's Cafe Royal until December. Special cocktails have been created by forager and mixologist Emil Åreng for this.
Our tasting notes
The colour is bright gold and the nose is sweet with a gentle and subtle smokiness. Aromas of vanilla and heather honey compliment the soft peat smoke and this is joined by aromatic wood smoke and something green and resinous. Hints of bitter orange, leather and aniseed sit in the background. Overall, this is very enticing but quite different from most Glenmorangie's that we have sampled.
On the palate this whisky is soft, smoky and rich. The heather honey note from the nose hits first along with some malty biscuit, vanilla and a hint of milk chocolate. The peat and botanical smoke is never far away though and wraps around everything. This is sweet and gentle in character with a distinct earthiness. The savoury nature is enhanced by hints of resinous pine oils and zingy juniper, which gives a multi-layered feel to the smoke. Something barky, presumably from the birch, also comes through and sits alongside an increasing spicy and peppery characteristic.
There are plenty of subtle secondary notes too - think of aromatic burnt lemon and orange zest, menthol, eucalyptus and delicate wood spices. A hint of aniseed, damp earth, moss and old leather round things off superbly.
The finish is long and warming with the smokiness fading last. This smoke takes on a vegetal, resinous and slightly more bitter edge as the sweeter honeyed notes slowly drift away. This gives a mouthwatering and drying edge with a prickly and peppery heat.
What's the verdict?
The Tales series may only be three whiskies old, but it is quickly gaining a reputation for being one to look out for around this time each year. It is bold for a big brand like Glenmorangie to release such experimental whiskies and A Tale of the Forest takes that theory one stage further.
To revisit the old tradition of burning other things with peat is interesting and not something we can recall another Scotch brand doing. We have seen it with a couple of new world distilleries, Mackmyra and Stauning from Sweden and Denmark respectively, but not from Scotland.
A Tale of the Forest is delicious yet unlike any Glenmorangie that we can remember sampling in the past. Dr. Bill and his experimental approach are to be applauded. We cannot wait to see what the next bottling in the series brings. Sadly, we will have to wait a year to find out.